I’m supposed to be on a self-imposed break from BP, but I came across this article by Ramachandra Guha, one of India’s most respected historians, published in today’s Indian Express. Though I don’t agree with everything in the article (he very casually rejects an independent Kashmir, succumbing to standard Indian nationalism), there is one paragraph which is worth quoting:
I detest Hindutva majoritarianism as much as Mander does. The persecution and stigmatisation of Muslims by groups and leaders allied to the ruling BJP regime is deeply worrying. Because Hindus are in an overwhelming majority in India, their communalism is far more dangerous than Muslim communalism. At the same time, one should recognise that discrimination by caste and especially gender is pervasive among Muslims too. And regardless of their own personal faith, or lack thereof, liberals must consistently and continually uphold the values of freedom and equality. They must promote the interests of the individual against that of the community, and seek to base public policies on reason and rationality rather than on scripture. In this struggle, liberals must have the courage to take on both Hindu and Muslim communalists. To quote Dalwai one last time, the “real conflict in India today is between all types of obscurantism, dogmatism, revivalism, and traditionalism on one side and modern liberalism on the other”.
To me, this seems a sensible position. I would like to think that South Asian liberals (used loosely) can agree that majoritarianism is bad. Majoritarianism in India takes the form of Hindutva and people like Modi and Yogi. In Pakistan, it takes the form of Islamism, either of the “soft” or “hard” variety. For minorities in either country, this is no fun. Pakistan’s Hindus are Pakistani and should not be required to prove their loyalty to the State (see the essay I posted on “In search of Diwali in Lahore). Similarly, India’s Muslims are not “Pakistanis” and referring to them as such is obnoxious. There are politicians who do this and who refer to Muslim-dominated neighborhoods as “Little Pakistan”. There was also that remark during one of the earlier elections that “If we lose, they will burst firecrackers in Pakistan”. As a Pakistani, let me just say that no one in the country is super concerned about legislative elections in Bihar.
Feel free to discuss. Let’s try to keep the tone civil. I apologize again for my own contribution to taking offense easily.
P.S. I would personally not describe myself as a “liberal”. I feel I am a moderate (though I do lean left of center). Conservatives have some good points regarding the importance of the family and of social institutions generally. It is fundamentalists who are the problem.
Guha’s whole Op-Ed can be found here:
And the piece he is responding to is here: